at a seven out of ten between June first and July thirty-first. I can only imagine these numbers rising with the onset of the school year as they do in my home.
In the process of reading the more thorough documentation of stress in recent years, I’m realizing that stress and anxiety are taking much more of a toll on my health—and a more widespread toll on the health of other people—than I had initially understood. Reading these reports is almost leading to an additional feeling helplessness; feeling stressed about stress.
Connecting Reduces Stress
My good friend Michael Lee Stallard has researched and written extensively on what he calls a "connection culture." In a recent interview for Forbes.com he says,
"Human beings are hardwired to connect. When we feel connection and experience social support we are less likely to go into a state of stress response."
What is a "stress response"?
Stallard says, "The body senses when threats are present and it goes into stress response mode, sending blood, glucose and oxygen to the heart, lungs and big muscles like the thighs. At the same time, the body shortchanges the brain, digestive, immune and reproductive systems, leaving us more vulnerable to memory loss, digestive disorders, infection and illness. The body is preparing to fight or flee. When we are stuck in a state of stress response for a long period of time, it drains the life out of us."
Shortly after my arrival at First Baptist Newton in 2011, we were fortunate to have Stallard participate in a leadership retreat and help us begin creating a culture of connection, based on shared identity, empathy and understanding.
How to Bless a Backpack
Our Blessing of the Backpacks will hopefully, in some small way, remedy this by creating a simple opportunity to connect with others.
To bless a backpack, we invite a child or student (or adult!) to receive a brief prayer of encouragement: that their trusty backpacks would remind them of their connections to this caring community.
Another way to “bless a backpack” is by helping families who struggle to fill their backpacks this September, especially nutritionally. Blessings in a Backpack (www.blessingsinanbackpack.com) reminds us that "hunger doesn't take weekends off" and provides elementary schoolchildren who are on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year.
If you plan to participate, I encourage you to give your child the money to hand in, by which you will not only be fostering a connection with your child and with the family you are providing to, but also helping your child continue learning about generosity and connection.
For more on kids, stress and school: